Town fans were given an early Christmas present with the news that Ben Tomlinson will be making an earlier-than-expected return from injury.
The winger made a fine start to the season before a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the 1-1 draw at Sutton on September 1 appeared to have ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.
“It looked like a really, really dark period that it was going to be for me,” he said, “but now I’ve got the information that my ACL’s not ruptured and I’ll be back much sooner than anticipated, so I’m absolutely over the moon.
“I hurt my knee when we played at Sutton. It was still sore two weeks after, so I went for an MRI scan.
“Then the radiologist looked at the images that got taken and said that I had a tear in my meniscus and ruptured my ACL.
“So I was preparing myself for being out for nine months, post-surgery.
“But I then got told my ACL was intact and stable, so obviously it’s a massive difference.
“I’ve had my meniscus repaired and some of it trimmed away, but there was only a small bit of damage to the ACL and nothing to the severity of what it was supposed to be.”
Tomlinson was taken aback when he first got told the news.
“I was a bit in limbo because when I first got brought round from having the operation, the woman told me I’d not had it, and I didn’t know why,” he said.
“So I was like ‘does that mean I’ve got to have it tomorrow, or the next day, or what!’
“So I had an anxious couple of hours until I saw the surgeon again, but his words were ‘if I could repair a knee to be as strong as yours, I’d be a bloody good surgeon’, which I was delighted with.”
So when does Tomlinson think he will be back in action?
“That’s the magic question,” he said. “I got told by the surgeon that, with the injury I sustained and what they repaired in my knee, the recovery time is six to eight weeks to be back into training.
“That’s my guideline. I’m back to see the surgeon on December 3, but I’m working very, very hard now to try and get my knee as strong as it possibly can be, and try to get myself as fit as I possibly can.
“I don’t want to be looking at next year, there’s over another month left yet this year, which is a lot of days!
“Six to eight weeks sees me to the middle of December to the end of December. Do I want to be out that long? No, I don’t. Am I mentally strong enough to come back quicker than that? Yep. Am able to put the effort in to get me back quicker? Yeah, I am.
“They’re the guidelines I’ve got. Whether it takes longer or shorter than that, I don’t know, but I’ll be trying my best to make sure it’s the latter.”
Tomlinson enjoyed his recent milestone of getting back to running on the training field.
“I ran for the first time with boots on, on a football pitch, on Friday last week,” he said.
“It was brilliant for me obviously, to put a pair of football boots on.
“I actually thought when I took them off that they were the boots I actually hurt myself in, and I hadn’t put them on since!
“But they were clean though ‘cos Sutton’s an AstroTurf pitch isn’t it!
“It was a great feeling for me to get back out there on the turf, but I’m doing everything in my power to get myself back as soon as possible.
“I want to be out on the pitch. I don’t want to be missing games, I’ve had enough of it now.
“I think it’s nearly 12 weeks now, so I need to be back playing, and I’m trying my best to be back as soon as possible.”
Tomlinson’s absence from the side coincided with Town’s winless league run of 12 games.
“At the end of the day, the results have gone how they’ve gone,” he added.
“No one person affects the team that much. We’re all vital parts of it.
“Have they missed me? I don’t know.
“We’ve got adequate players who can fill in all positions, so they shouldn’t miss me because there are other boys who can replace me, no-one’s that irreplaceable.
“Obviously the results haven’t been going our way but I don’t think that’s anything to do with me not being in the team. I’m one person.
“I try to do the best I can and bring whatever I can when I’m on the pitch, but if I can’t play then obviously someone has to fill my boots.”